(I have decided I am rotten at quick synopsis of books. I go into way too much detail. So I am now going to be more concise and brief. Ha! It is just so hard when there is so much to say.)
Maud Hart Lovelace is famous for her Betsy-Tacy books, but this book, about another girl in Deep Valley is just as good. It has brief mentions of Betsy and Tacy's crowd, but really and truly, this is Emily's book.
This is the story of an intelligent girl, stymied by graduating school and not being able to afford college. Eventually she finds useful occupation in Deep Valley and makes new friends to augment the friends away at college.
(That was pretty brief wasn't it?)
I adore Vera Neville's girls. They are all so beautiful and elegant!
Emily lives with her grandfather, so she isn't at liberty to make plans without considering him. She doesn't have the freedom of heading off to college without a backward glance. Her grandfather is very kind and generous, but in his day, things were done differently, so he can't see the point in scrimping and saving for seeming trifles.
At the beginning of the book, her grandfather is completely consumed with plans for Decoration Day (Memorial Day) when he and his fellow Civil War veterans will march in the parade. Emily, on the other hand is busy with end of school activities. She and her grandfather are very close, but they are of completely different generations, so see the world and what is important very differently.
The summer is a lovely mix of quietness in her slough, which Emily loves, and a whirlwind of friends and parties. When September comes, however, everyone leaves town. Emily has always loved the quietness of where they live, but suddenly, instead of quiet peacefulness, it seems oppressively empty and lonely.
Despite her best intentions, she falls into a little bit of a depression about the whole thing. For Grandfather's sake, she does her best to be cheerful and do the things that need doing.
Finally, the day before the first home football game, after a chance comment from a new coach at school about how she looked like a school girl with her hair in braids, she pulls herself together and decides she is not going the game. She isn't in high school anymore, and she is not going to languish around trying to pretend she is.
"The reason I didn't put up my hair was that I was clinging to high school," she thought. "There doesn't seem to be anything in my future, so I'm cling to the past.
"But I can't stop living. I can't tie up my life like Chinese women do their feet. I've got to go on somehow."
"I don't know just what I can do, stuck here in Deep Valley.... But I know I'm going to do something, and I'm NOT going to go to the game this afternoon."
At church she hears the minister quote Shakespeare--"Muster your wits: stand in your own defense." When Emily pulls herself together, she does so quite admirably. She takes up piano lessons once again, starts a book club, takes dancing lessons, and buys a new dress.
While skating on the pond, she sees some boys treat a little Syrian immigrant she had befreinded earlier in the year very badly. She brings him home to her grandfather and feeds him up. Thus is born the idea for a Boys club for these immigrants.
Emily sets her plans in motion, and while she is still a little lonesome, she is busy and happier.
Her crowd comes home for Christmas, but somehow it isn't as joyful as Emily thought it would be. The boy she wants is obsessed with her cousin, as are all the other boys it seems. After a disastrous party, in which her cousin inveigles one of her hanger-ons to resentfully squire Emily, Emily is thankful for the quiet loneliness of her slough.
Emily realizes, "I tag them around, but I'm like a shadow. Well, I won't do it any more!"
She wasn't tired of her friends, but she was tired of pursuing them as though her own life were worthless.
In an effort to be more on her own, Emily and her grandfather decide to give a Christmas party for some of the Syrians. As fall and winter progressed Emily had become more and more interested and involved with the immigrant community
Dancing at the New Year's Eve Party. Emily has some encouraging words from Betsy Ray about the usefulness of seemingly "wasted" years after high school.
Through her work with the Syrian's, Emily becomes friends with the new coach at the school who had innocently commented on her hair looking like a high schooler's and set off all of Emily's changes, Mr. Jed.
It is interesting to me how timeless things are. Syrian refugees and immigrants are very current subjects in our world today, as current as they were at the turn of the last century.
Jed and Emily get to be quite friendly through their involvement with the social services they create and supply to the Syrians.
Eventually, there is a love interest of Emily's own.
I love Emily. I love her natural responses of disappointment and dejection at not doing what she wants to do. And I love her resolution and plans to make her little world better rather than wallowing in the past or in her injustices. She becomes her own person and realizes it is possible to do so much good in the world without going about it in the prescribed manner she had in her own mind.